Self-Motivation
David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Actor
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Management
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
Learn
from the world's big
thinkers
Start Learning

Discovering Quorum Sensing

Question: What is quorum sensing?

Bonnie Bassler: We have been talking about things that are invisible,so bacteria are basically invisible to our eyes and yet we are covered with them, they are on us, they are in us, they are everywhere, and scientists have known about bacteria for almost 400 years, and what bacteria are are these primitive single-celled organisms, the way that they grow is they grow twice their size, their cut themselves down in the middle and then one becomes two. And so for all of these 400 years, everyone has thought that these bacteria are so primitive that they are just out there acting like these asocial organisms. But what we thought about and think about now is that there is no possibility that a bacteria could accomplish all the things they manage and most, like making us sick, lots of terrible things, but also lots of wonderful things, if they were just acting as these little individuals because they couldn’t have an influence on the environment. And so what we have shown and what quorum sensing is is the bacteria make and release tiny little molecules that you can think of like hormones, and so as the cells grow in numbers, these molecules grow on the outside of the cells. And when the molecules hit a certain amount, which is proportional to cell number, the bacteria detect that those molecules are there, so it is a way of counting neighbors, and then all the bacteria change their behavior in unison, and so they start carrying out tasks as enormous groups instead of trying to accomplish these tasks as individuals. So it is just like what we do, you know, if you need to move a piano from here to there, you don’t do it yourself, you wait, you get all your friends, and then you go one, two, three, and everybody does it together. So we call it quorum sensing, so they sort of vote with these chemical votes, they count the votes, and then they say we have enough to do it, and then they do it, whatever it is.

Recorded on: 6/17/08

Bonnie Bassler explains her breakthrough discovery.

Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
Coronavirus
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Education vs. learning: How semantics can trigger a mind shift

The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.

Future of Learning
  • The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
  • Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
  • Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
Keep reading Show less

How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

Keep reading Show less

Why is everyone so selfish? Science explains

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.

Credit: Adobe Stock, Olivier Le Moal.
Personal Growth
  • Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
  • New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
  • Times of crisis tend to increase self-centered acts.
Keep reading Show less
Quantcast